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Sink or Swim

Gabrielle Weiss

If I follow your footprints in the damp sand
where the tide clocks in and out, I will find you
hunched over, sifting through seashell mosaics,
hunting for the smoothest red-speckled shells.
I choose to follow the waves, wanting to float
on the surface of dark, murky blue. I’m unaware
that the moon is the master of tides, but the ocean
is a metronome, ticking out beats that bruise our hearts.
I am one wave in and the current grabs,
tangles and knots me, forces salt into the corners
of my lungs, and drags me along gritty sand.
Never-ending waves pull shoulders out of my sockets,
and stretch me out like the points of a starfish.
This goes on until I am nothing but the sea’s own eddy.
At an age when oceans live inside fathers, you pick up
my bundle of limbs and cradle them. Years later,
when it’s ten minutes past curfew, I’ll lie on the hood of a car
looking into the night sky, with a boy who traces a map
of stars into my palm. He’ll ask what my father’s like.
I’ll tell him that you’ve always smelled like sea salt.